Projekt 42 – Supporting our communities’ fitness and mental health in a pandemic

Posted: 05 October 2020, in News

Projekt 42 is an award-winning charity which works in Leith, Edinburgh to support our communities’ fitness and mental health. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to improve their wellbeing regardless of income or background, and we remove barriers which our community faces to enhance their physical fitness and mental health. We have been needed more than ever during this period and have faced significant challenges.

Laura Woodland

My role at Projekt 42 began just before the pandemic. I’m the programme and social impact manager, working on the programmes, their funding, and how they can have the most impact on our community. As we are a small team, you’ll also find me doing marketing, PR, recruitment, team management, funding, social media, customer service and volunteer management. I’ve also assisted the team in adapting to remote working and sourcing appropriate tools to ensure our communication and teamwork could continue whilst we worked apart.

I’m still yet to meet many of my team in person, but that doesn’t look to change any time soon. I feel working through a pandemic has bonded us more than any team-building exercise ever could. In terms of tools, I’d recommend any charity installing Slack, Confluence, Canva and Trello – they have been a real game-changer for running our projects and offer free or affordable charity access. I appreciate that I only use these tools at work – it at least gives some semblance of a work/life balance.

The indoors gym

Our service has changed dramatically over the past six months. In March our income was hit instantly by the lockdown, as our venue closed and 80% of our gym memberships were paused or frozen. These cancellations had a significant impact on our charitable offering as over 40% of the revenue from those memberships had always been invested directly in our charitable activities. In the past, our programmes were predominantly being funded by our services, but that suddenly wasn’t possible, and we couldn’t forecast for how long that would be. Much of my work over the past six months has involved managing potential grant funding and understanding the real impact of the services we deliver.

We’ve also been through a digital revolution, both in how we work as a team and how our services are delivered. For months our gym was closed, and at first, all our services had to pause as we worked out how we could digitalise our offering safely. We needed to keep our community together, our members moving, and our mental health service working and responding to the increasing calls for help we were receiving. It took time to ensure that we could safely do this, to find the right platforms, train staff and ensure our beneficiaries were supported throughout the changes.

The outdoors gym

The pandemic has given me the chance to see firsthand the digital divide in our community. I’ve known about it from a policy perspective and how much of a barrier not having the skills or access to equipment or the internet can affect people. It has been this pandemic that has opened my eyes to the lived experience of this. We work in an area of intense deprivation, and we also have a thriving seniors programme. When the pandemic happened, we thought, we can put it all online. Still, many of our most vulnerable community members didn’t have the equipment to go online, we got equipment donated, but most members who didn’t have equipment also didn’t have internet access, and we hit a bit of a brick wall.

Now we are looking at how we can raise the skills and access of this community so that if other lockdowns happen, we’ll never be cut off from them again. Receiving a message from an 84-year-old who had successfully managed to access chair yoga online and hadn’t been able to do any other activity for months, brought tears to my eyes, their experience will always stay with me.

An exercise class pre-Covid

I’ve learnt so much during this time, and I’m proud of the team I’ve joined. We have managed to arrange over 40 online classes a week with some free and affordable access. We have supported over 180 people to access free and affordable counselling since the pandemic began. We have launched digital physio rehabilitation services which provided free support to those facing injuries during the lockdown. We have also launched an outdoor gym, and I believe the cleanest, most socially distanced gym venues I’ve ever seen. We’ve grown our team to be able to support and respond to the changing needs of the community.

I’ve been continually impressed by the leadership of our Chief Executive Officer, Sara Hawkins. Sara somehow manages to do what appears to be ten jobs all at once, and I’m grateful to be able to support her vision and contribute to such a worthy cause during this unprecedented time. I’m continuing to grow and develop in my role and would welcome any fellow funding and programme managers reaching out to me on LinkedIn.

Laura Woodland
Programme & Social Outcome Manager
Projekt 42